February school vacation: Skiing is at the top of the list. Wildcat, Attitash, Cranmore, King Pine, Bretton Woods — all our most popular mountains will be packed with families here to enjoy our world-class skiing.
Lift tickets, ski lessons, equipment rentals, food. A full day for the family of four can easily approach $1,000.
The weather is always unpredictable. This year, we have run the gamut — snow, sleet, rain, sun, 50 degrees, -10 degrees. Each day is different.
On the super windy days, lift operations are suspended. What is a family to do if skiing is no longer an option?
The answer is easy: go ice fishing.
We are fortunate that here in the Mount Washington Valley, there are many places to go ice fishing. The valley has places that rent ice-fishing gear. In addition, the valley has guides who will take you ice fishing and treat you like royalty. Simply put, ice fishing will create a memory that the family will not soon forget.
If you are interested in doing a family ice-fishing trip, the easiest way to get started is to hire a guide. A guide will have all the equipment and knowledge for a successful day on the ice.
Guides have bob houses on key waters to protect you from poor weather, and they are on the water regularly. Guides know where the fish are located and, more important, where the ice is safe.
Trips can be as short as two hours to as long as eight hours. On longer guided trips, meals are included. There is nothing like a nice juicy hamburger or plump hot dog while waiting for the flags to fly.
Clay Groves of Fish Nerds GuideService does quite a few family and kid-only guided ice-fishing trips in the valley. “Kids are just amazed when they reel up their line and there is a fish on the other end,” Groves said. “I love watching kids catch fish, more than I enjoy catching them myself.”
Groves, the former manager of Project SUCCEED for the Conway School District, went on to explain that his average ice trip for a family of four is $350 and this includes everything needed except a fishing license.
“We also offer a two-hour ‘Sampler’ for up to four anglers for just $200; this is a small-pond experience and a ton of fun for those who just want a taste.”
Anyone 16 or older will need a license. Licenses can be purchased online at wildlife.state.nh.us.
For those who are experienced ice anglers but came to the valley to ski, rental equipment is available. The North Country Angler has everything needed for a fun day on the ice. Portable ice shanty, power auger, jig rods and tip-ups are all available to rent.
For as little as $100, North Country Angler will get you set for ice-fishing action. They will provide you with the most up-to-date information on the waters that are producing. They know where you can purchase live bait, if that is your preferred method to angle.
Some of the waters to try in the area include Silver Lake in Madison, Pequawket Pond in Conway, Crystal Lake in Eaton or Loon Lake in Freedom. All of these waters have a variety of fish to angle for and the youngsters in your group will giggle with glee as a new species comes up through the ice.
Give the mountains a break and take your kids ice fishing. You won’t regret it.
Tip of the Week
When jigging during ice fishing, put a salmon egg or piece of Berkley GULP bait on the hook. It will exponentially increase your success.
Steve Angers, a native of the Conway area, has been consumed by fishing since catching his first wild brook trout at the base of Champney Falls.